Your Reputation is On the Line

Let’s face it: as a retail coffee shop business manager, every time a customer leaves the venue, you wonder if they enjoyed their experience and you wonder what they will tell others. You are not alone, because you probably already know that most customers – 72 percent of them – trust online reviews to be correct. Good reviews can make or break your business, without your knowledge of the reviews. Don’t just leave it up to chance; be proactive if you want to protect the online reputation for your business. With that said, here are a few tips for avoiding bad online reviews while also encouraging happy customers to share their experience with others:

1) Prepare your staff
The entire customer experience starts from the front of the house, as first impressions set the tone for the entire experience. Yes, it is important for your baristas to make a good coffee, but it is more important for whoever is communicating directly with the customer to understand how that customer is enjoying the experience. They need to be taught the signs of an unhappy customer and they need to have a formalized policy for how to deal with it.

Typically, prompt action is required to replace their drink with something that is suitable. One of my favorite methods is to verbally tell customers if they have a problem to “come to me” and I will take care of it. Say this before the first sip. As a manager, one of your most important investments is training and rewarding your employees. Train them well and you will have a well-oiled customer pleasing machine, and positive online reviews to show for it.

2) You have to give a little to get a little
Coffee shop service is very hectic, and issues will arise from time to time. As mentioned before, investing in team training can help avoid this, but it is not foolproof. Hopefully you have told customers to come to you with any issues. If not, they might directly tell you that they are unsatisfied or show it through their body language. Deal with this immediately by apologizing, but maintaining the confidence in your product or service by offering them a replacement drink or food item.

Don’t worry about the small cost, think more about the lifetime value of a customer – one that may shop with you regularly or tell others about your business. A happy one will buy many more drinks and refer many more people your way; that is how you build a customer base.

3) Make it easy for happy customers to review
The keyword is “happy”. I see many coffee shops readily broadcasting to customers that they are on Yelp, Tripadvisor, etc. But you are broadcasting this idea to both your happy customers and unhappy customers. While a really persistent unhappy customer will still find you online and leave a bad review, you don’t want to give them the idea in the first place. The goal is to list that you are on these websites in a few places, but do not overly broadcast it.

Secondly, train your staff or social media manager (for online interactions) on how to identify happy customers. For instance, these are likely your regulars. If you kindly ask them if they would leave an online review for you, many of them will. It helps to add an incentive, but many times all you have to do is ask.

4) Gather feedback from each and every customer
The process of gathering and understanding customer feedback is critical to your business. Many coffee shops do this through comment cards or direct one-on-one interactions with the company. I’m personally so passionate about this subject that a few friends and I started a company called SpotSurvey, which has the sole mission of simplifying on-the-spot customer feedback, while helping build customer communication and preventing bad reviews.

Too many businesses fail from either bad feedback collection or the failure to take action on the feedback provided. The best forms of feedback for a retail store are anything you can get on-the-spot that’s anonymous. Remember, you do not want all the feedback going online, unless it is positive. If there are bad experiences being had by customers, you will want that anonymous feedback directly from them so you can take the necessary steps mentioned in step 2 to make them happy. You are not hiding bad experiences, you are taking action on resolving them in a manageable and responsible way, before it spreads all over the internet and you are forever labeled and judged. I have seen many great businesses fail from not managing their online reputation and customer relationships effectively.

5) Take action while being transparent and genuine in your efforts
As I mentioned before, you can never run a perfect business. You can’t please every customer, but most negative experiences are easily corrected if addressed immediately in a transparent and genuine way. In fact, how you respond to a negative experience is an opportunity to shine and win an evangelist for your business. Most customers (85% of them) don’t want to talk bad about your business; they just want to be listened to and understood. This is why it’s important to take every opportunity you can to listen to your customers and to take action right away. This response is even more transparent online, so don’t be afraid to respond to negative tweets or Facebook page comments about your business online in a non-combative way. Many more customers will see your genuine approach and respect your business because of it.

So there you have it: the world of online reviews is actually a great thing for your business as long as you can manage it in a responsible way. Plan ahead, be observant, and take action right away to keep the customer experience great. Get the feedback you need to make your business successful. The absolute worst thing you can do is bury your head in the sand at the sight of bad online reviews. My personal motto is: “It’s not just about how many customers you can get, but rather how many you keep.”

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